When It Positively, Absolutely Has to Be There...Soon
May 22, 2015 10:31 PM   Subscribe

Will FedEx or other package delivery services ever deliver a two day package in one day? If the capacity is there and there are other packages going in less time (one day) on the same route, would they ever fill that capacity by delivering early?

For example, an airline, if you show up to an earlier flight, assuming there is a seat available will usually let you fly without a change fee or charge. They figure they have the capacity and that this will give them a possibility to sell or use your later seat.

Also, let's say I am a business shipping two identical packages today going to the same building but one customer is ok with it getting there in two days and the other is willing to pay for one day. When FedEx comes to pick up and scans them both in, they know they are going to the address tomorrow. Why not send the other one a day early if there is room on the flight and the trucks?

Similarly, when I pay for two day shipping, am I paying for exactly two day shipping or no more than two day shipping? Is it a planning issue on the recipient's end that would prevent a package deliver company from delivering early?
posted by AugustWest to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
FedEx absolutely will not do this, even when it's an in-city mailing and you can see exactly where it is and it is in the FedEx location you are physically standing in, they will not let you have it early. That's how they make their money. You cheap out and pay for the 3 day shipping, they're going to sit on it until the time is up. With FedEx, you absolutely are paying for exactly two day shipping.

UPS, on the other hand, is more lenient about this. UPS will deliver your stuff as soon as they have it available to give to you. I believe UPS's shipping options are more about delivery ranges, like 1-2 days or 3-5 days. In reality they're pretty great about getting it to you on the short end but they give themselves a cushion. I literally just this week ordered something with 3-5 day UPS shipping. Got it within 24 hours. That would never have happened with FedEx.

Anecdotally, I have Amazon Prime, so I get a lot of things with the two day delivery, which come via UPS and USPS. Sometimes it only takes a day. Every once in a while the 2 day shipping will take 3 days. There have been a small handful of times when I've upgraded to the one day shipping--those have all come via FedEx and have all been delivered within 24 hours. UPS gives themselves some wiggle room but often beats their estimate. FedEx sells precision.
posted by phunniemee at 11:03 PM on May 22, 2015 [18 favorites]

I've had DHL deliver my two-day packages in one day occasionally. This is in Germany though, with amazon.de packages, don't know how that translates to other locations (and you don't specify where you are). It can actually be a bit annoying because it comes when I'm not home, but eh *shrugs*.
posted by shelleycat at 1:32 AM on May 23, 2015

IME 2 day shipping means 2 days. No more, no less. I get stuff from Amazon and eBay all the time and lately I've bought some stuff from sellers who live in the same city as I do and their stuff still comes after 2 days. It is so annoying to be tracking a package and know that it's sitting at my local post office for another 12-24 hours because of this.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:19 AM on May 23, 2015

phunniemee has it, pretty much. FedEx will hold packages until their delivery date - if you pay for 3 day service, you'll get 3 day service, even if it gets to the destination city early. UPS will deliver early though for sure - I recently shipped something I sold on ebay via UPS Ground. They picked up at 6pm and it was delivered the next morning by 10am. Admittedly, it wasn't going too far (CT to NH), but both myself and the ebay purchaser were surprised at the shipping speed.
posted by reptile at 3:27 AM on May 23, 2015

There are (were?) maps you can get from UPS that show the ground shipping time for the whole country based on your location. Overnight was generally a few hundred miles away. And it ranged up to, I think, ten days.
posted by rockindata at 4:12 AM on May 23, 2015

They do, but not often. Overnight shipping is really weird because the packages have to be sorted at the destination station at night (very early in the morning), so the carriers do a special sorting cycle with fewer employees just for the stuff that's one day. Then they sort all the 2-day and slower stuff at the same time all the 1-day stuff is in trucks being delivered. So it is fundamentally unlikely your package will make it into the overnight sorting cycle when it doesn't have to be there. But I'm sure it does happen when lots of capacity is available.
posted by miyabo at 5:02 AM on May 23, 2015

UPS will definitely deliver early. We order with Amazon Prime's 2-day shipping frequently, and I'd estimate that about 20% of the packages show up the next day.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:05 AM on May 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

USPS consistently delivers things early. You're paying for no-more-than, at least with priority mail.

I haven't gotten it down to a perfect science, but if you dropped something off before the very earliest pickup at a post office and it was "3 day" priority mail, which is sometimes marked 2 day, it will probably get there in 2 days. I've also done one day in-state mailing this way even when it was marked 2 day(although i HAVE paid for a 2 day label and had it print me a 1 day one!). This is ONLY true of priority mail though. Their other services often overshoot the top end of their say, 5 day guarantees. Media mail, parcel post, what glacial shit.

I've had similar experiences with UPS and the higher speed thing, but i've found USPS is more often consistently faster like that if it's priority mail. UPS doesn't seem to like storing stuff, but if there's plenty of stuff to get shipped they'll sit on it if it still roughly falls within the time window.

Fedex is the most full of shit on this. Unless you pay out the ass for the fastest services, you're going to get the slowest quoted time every time. Smartpost in particular, where they do the last mile via USPS, is ridiculously slow. It quotes something like 7 days max, and it takes 7 days every time even if it's just going from WA to CA or something.

I actually just checked the tracking and USPS got something mailed at closing on wednesday there on friday morning, which is really pushing it on the fast end for "2 day". Generally the cheapest way to get something the size of like, a book or an ipad or smaller somewhere fast is USPS. Anything bigger than that UPS. But i only use fedex if it's small and i want to send it cheap and don't care when it gets there(and it wont fit in a USPS small flat rate box)
posted by emptythought at 5:08 AM on May 23, 2015

My experience with FedEx is they stick to exactly the time frame being paid for, and no sooner. I've actually watched, via their own tracking, a package I ordered, and shipped from a location an easy one-day drive away, sit in a FedEx hub for two days until the exact delivery date arrived. It then went on a truck for delivery.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:27 AM on May 23, 2015

My experience with 2 day shipping through Amazon has been different. It's pretty uncommon I get something in 1 day, and a big reason for this is a lot (but not all) of my packages are handed off to USPS so even if they arrive in one day I'm waiting another day for the post office to deliver it. Now if I'm using standard shipping (3-5 days) it's quite common to receive it early.
posted by Aranquis at 6:53 AM on May 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have stood in the FedEx office as they denied me my package and specifically said, "The shipper didn't pay for two day shipping, they paid for three day shipping."
posted by corb at 8:49 AM on May 23, 2015

Even when we had copies of airbills showing we paid for overnighting but it was misentered into the FedEx system, it still took acts of god and supervisors to retrieve the package "early", mostly because it required them to pull it from the storage bins and that meant messing with other packages and documenting changes etc. It used to be enough of a hassle that it actually had to be dangerous for delivery to be delayed before my supervisor would ask FedEx to do this. Lately if it is their error, FedEx has been a bit better about "how about by 8:30 tomorrow morning?" which works for most situations-but it's taken YEARS to get them there.
posted by beaning at 9:33 AM on May 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I get accelerated delivery of items from Amazon that are shipped UPS pretty much every time. That said, I have also had UPS let packages languish in Kentucky for a couple of days until the committed delivery date came up. They seem much more likely to push up an Amazon package than something I've shipped, but it has happened.

I suspect part of the reason is that UPS sorts are now largely automated (for the smaller packages anyway), while FedEx still uses the large group of people manually throwing stuff around method. That's likely due to FedEx employees not being as well paid as their unionized UPS counterparts, which reduces their incentive to automate.
posted by wierdo at 10:37 AM on May 23, 2015

I once ordered a knife sharpener at 6:30 PM on a Friday night. 9:30 AM it was in my mailbox. This was with Amazon Prime and they contracted out to courier, so YMMV, but it seemed pretty magical.
posted by GilloD at 5:19 PM on May 23, 2015

I just mailed a package on Thursday afternoon (USPS) and paid for two-day delivery (delivery was guaranteed to be "attempted" by 3 p.m. on Saturday.) The recipient got it on Friday.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:42 AM on May 24, 2015

> I once ordered a knife sharpener at 6:30 PM on a Friday night. 9:30 AM it was in my mailbox. This was with Amazon Prime and they contracted out to courier, so YMMV, but it seemed pretty magical.

I've had Amazon Prime things show up the same day they were ordered, after choosing two-day delivery. This was a few years ago and I live near Seattle; it hasn't happened for a while.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:59 AM on May 24, 2015

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